Judge Dismisses Part of Legal Challenge to N.D. Abortion Law

By:  Dave Bohon
Judge Dismisses Part of Legal Challenge to N.D. Abortion Law

North Dakota's legislation banning abortions on pre-born babies after the sixth week of pregnancy has been dismissed by a federal judge.

A federal judge has dismissed a legal challenge to North Dakota's historic legislation that bans abortions on pre-born babies suffering from genetic abnormalities such as Down Syndrome. The law, signed in March by Governor Jack Dalrymple, also bans sex-selection abortions, and prohibits all abortions after about the sixth week of pregnancy — when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. 

The Fargo, North Dakota-based Red River Women's Clinic, the state's sole abortion provider, filed the suit in June to have the new law blocked. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland granted the clinic's request to drop the part of the suit challenging the gender and genetic defects abortion ban, after clinic officials conceded that they don't perform such abortions anyway. That portion of the lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice, so the clinic may revive the challenge later.

The clinic, which filed the suit with the help of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, will continue to try to have the six-week abortion ban overturned, arguing that it represents a hardship on women in North Dakota trying to abort their babies. “The passage of this law is nothing short of a frontal assault on the U.S. Constitution, 40 years of Supreme Court precedent, and the health and fundamental rights of women,” said the Center for Reproductive Rights' Nancy Northrup when the bill was passed in March.

Some analysts believe that the clinic opted to drop the other parts of the lawsuit because there was little chance they would succeed, but the six-week abortion ban may have a better chance of being overturned. In fact, Judge Hovland himself blocked the ban in July and called it "clearly invalid and unconstitutional."

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